Reaping Results
The property market shows signs of cooling down amid tighter regulations
By Li Xiaoyang  ·  2019-07-01  ·   Source: NO. 27 JULY 4, 2019

Residential buildings under construction in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province, on January 9 (XINHUA)

The month of May, traditionally a busy season for China's property market, saw less enthusiasm this year among residential house buyers than in April and March. After a rebound in those two months, the real estate market cooled off under tightened curbs.

Commercial housing sales measured by floor area reached 555.18 million square meters in the first five months of the year, down 1.6 percent year on year. The sales value reached 5.18 trillion yuan ($751.4 billion), a 6.1-percent increase from the previous year. But the growth rate decreased by 2 percentage points on an annual basis, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on June 18.

Zhang Dawei, chief analyst with the leading real estate agency Centaline Property, attributed the decline to regulatory efforts implemented nationwide in April and May.

The rebound earlier this year was mainly due to loose monetary policies and incentives for attracting talents, while the upcoming months are likely to see a new round of market adjustment as stable growth remains a priority, he said.

Moderate growth

Housing prices in major cities remained largely stable in May as local property markets cooled off. NBS data showed that new house prices in the four first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen increased by 0.3 percent month on month in May, down from the 0.6-percent increase in April.

Prices of resold houses in these four cities edged up 0.1 percent month on month in May, down 0.3 percentage points from April. While the prices in Beijing and Shenzhen remained stable, Guangzhou saw a monthly dip of 0.3 percent. Resold house prices rose only in Shanghai, by 0.1 percent on a monthly basis.

Data from Centaline Property showed that the floor area of new homes for sale in Shanghai fell by 37.9 percent to 687,000 square meters in May compared to the previous month, the second fall the city witnessed since February.

"Tightened control in recent months has effectively checked the rise of housing prices in first-tier cities," Wang Yeqiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.

After heating up in March and April, property markets in smaller cities also showed signs of a downtrend. In 31 second-tier cities, new house prices rose by 0.8 percent in May from April, increasing by the same margin as the previous month. In third-tier cities, 35 saw a 0.8-percent increase in new house prices, moderately up by 0.3 percentage points than in April, according to NBS data.

Prices of resold houses in second-tier cities climbed 0.5 percent in May, down 0.1 percentage point from April. Prices in third-tier cities rose by 0.6 percent from April with steady performance.

For the first time in four years, property markets in second-tier cities saw positive growth in housing stock. According to Yan Yuejin, Research Director of the R&D Institute of E-House China, a Shanghai-based real estate services firm, tougher purchase restrictions have partially led to a declining housing trade.

A report released by E-House China said commercial housing sales measured by floor area in 18 third- and fourth-tier cities also declined by 2 percent in May on a monthly basis and 29 percent year on year.

As China's property market cools off, investment in the real estate industry has also dropped slightly. According to the NBS, real estate investment increased by 11.2 percent year on year in the first five months of the year, slower than the 11.9-percent growth in the January-April period but still faster than the 9.5-percent increase last year.


Targeted measures

The government has kept an eye on the growth of the property market to avoid overheating. According to Huang Zhilong, an analyst with Suning Institute of Finance, a private think tank headquartered in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province, growth of the property market can boost industries such as building materials and home appliances. However, soaring housing prices may lead to asset bubbles, especially in first-tier cities, which remains a major concern for financial regulators.

The causes of housing price rises in different cities are divergent, Yan said. Prices in second-tier cities were driven mainly by preferential policies for attracting talents in recent years, while the rising housing demands in third- and fourth-tier cities can be attributed to the renovation of shantytowns and dilapidated buildings subsidized by the government that enhanced people's purchasing power.

To curb speculation, local governments have rolled out various measures in recent years such as restricting housing purchases and increasing the minimum down payment required for getting loans.

In May, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development alerted four cities—Foshan in the southern province of Guangdong, Suzhou in Jiangsu, Dalian in the northeastern province of Liaoning and Nanning in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the south—over remarkable housing price rises in the previous three months, urging local authorities to regulate prices and stabilize market expectations.

The authorities will focus on improving supervision of capital inflows through shadow banks and loan misappropriations that violate real estate financing regulations, according to a document released by the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission in May.

But for different cities, measures are becoming increasingly targeted. For example, the local government in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, recently announced it was curbing speculation due to the rapid rise of property prices. However, Gaochun District in Nanjing said in June that it was easing restrictions on purchases to boost the real estate market.

According to senior NBS statistician Liu Jianwei, local governments have implemented differentiated real estate policies, which will contribute to the overall soundness and stability of the market.

Future prospects

The control on the property market may not be prominently eased although the economy will continue to face downward pressure in the second half of this year, Zhang Ming, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.

The E-House report predicted that the property markets in 40 major cities would continue to shrink in the following months due to strict regulatory efforts.

Housing sales and prices are expected to remain stable with possibly slower increases in real estate investment and construction, according to a report by the China International Capital Corp. Ltd.

Zhang Bo, chief analyst of the research arm of 58 Anjuke, an online housing transaction platform, said some second-tier cities may continue to see fervid buying while the property markets of more third and fourth-tier cities are expected to turn calmer. As the performances of residential housing markets in different localities become more differentiated, further targeted measures will be launched.

To cope with the cooling down of some property markets, especially in third- and fourth-tier cities, local governments need to control housing supplies in a timely manner and issue preferential policies to boost demands, Yan suggested.

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

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